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Cablegate: Codel Dreier in Kenya: Meeting with Opposition

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SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

LONDON AND PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PREL KE
SUBJECT: CODEL DREIER IN KENYA: MEETING WITH OPPOSITION
MEMBERS


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: During their July 5 meeting with CODEL
Dreier in Nairobi, opposition leaders emphasized the
constraints on their effectiveness imposed by insufficient
resources and limited understanding of the opposition's
legitimate function. KANU party members Justin Muturi, Chief
Opposition Whip and MP from Siakago, Joseph Lagat, MP from
Eldoret East, Abdul Bahari, MP from Isiolo South, and Samuel
Poghisio, MP from Kacheliba shared with CODEL Dreier the
challenges facing them, in particular inadequate staffing of
committees and the still-developing approach to opposition
politics. CODEL Dreier is in Kenya as part of the U.S. House
of Representatives Democracy Assistance Commission (HDAC)
program. END SUMMARY.

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OPPOSITION POLITICS

2. (SBU) Led by Muturi, opposition members appreciated the
opportunity to interact with CODEL Dreier and learn about
U.S. Congressional operations. In particular, they were
interested in the role of the opposition. In Parliament,
Muturi explained, MPs are expected to have a hand in creating
legislation, however, under Kenya's parliamentary system,
there is very limited scope for "private members"
(opposition) to introduce bills. MP Bahari expressed concern
that the government did not know how to handle opposition and
coalition politics, decrying the practice of co-opting
members of the opposition and ignoring promises to coalition
partners. Bahari added that because the government controls
the distribution of resources, the opposition is at a
disadvantage.

3. (SBU) Conversely, Poghisio commented, the opposition too,
needs to better understand its function. It would be better,
he continued, if instead of knee-jerk resistance to any
government-supported initiative, opposition members took more
carefully considered positions. Representative Dreier
agreed, noting how frequently there is bipartisan consensus
on issues before Congressional committees. Muturi added that
even bipartisan committees, in particular the ones which rely
on objective reports from other branches of the government,
have demonstrated a high degree of impartiality and did not
have difficulty reaching consensus. Poghisio hoped that
Kenyan political parties would develop into "real" parties in
which members are committed to the organization and its
positions.

COMMITTEES HAMSTRUNG

4. (SBU) Another challenge faced by the opposition, and
Parliament more generally, is the inadequate staffing level
of committees. Muturi lamented that a committee may have
just one staff member, who is not necessarily assigned based
on his or her technical expertise or training. Lagat
explained that the shadow cabinet system is also affected by
staffing shortages. Without adequate support, he noted, it
is difficult for shadow ministers to properly fill their
watchdog role. Representative Holt asked the Kenyan MPs what
type of staff, partisan, professional, or committee-specific,
would be most useful. Muturi responded that professional
staff would be best, and as it stands, the few staff there
are have been appropriately bipartisan.

5. (U) CODEL Dreier has not cleared this message.
ROWE

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